Justices to consider medical expert qualifications in chemo line case

David Yates Aug. 18, 2009, 8:00am

Rogers Cancer Institute

In November 2008, the Southeast Texas Record reported on an Orange couple who filed suit against eight doctors and three hospitals, alleging the woman suffered from a stroke after doctors inserted a central line into her veins.

Now, Texas' Ninth Court of Appeals has been tasked to decide whether or not the plaintiffs' medical report meets Texas Civil code requirements.

In their suit, Ivalyn and Lee O. Anderson claimed Ivalyn, 69 at the time of the incident, had a subcutaneous central venous access device put in her veins while receiving chemotherapy treatments.

Some of the defendants in the couple's suit, which was filed in Jefferson County, include Dr. Samuel J. Pangburn, who inserted the subcutaneous central venous line in Ivalyn's heart; the Julie and Ben Rogers Cancer Institute, Memorial Hermann Baptist Beaumont Hospital and Memorial Hermann Baptist Orange Hospital, all places where Ivalyn received nursing care.

During her treatment, which occurred between Aug. 16, 2006 and Sept. 21, 2006, Ivalyn suffered a stroke and a traumatic rupture of her subclavian artery, causing severe injuries to her brain and heart, court papers say.

The couple alleges the injuries were due to the forceful misplacement of the subcutaneous central venous access device in her heart, repetitive failure to diagnose misplacement of device and continuous subsequent use of the misplaced venous device.

To substantiate their claims, the plaintiffs submitted the expert reports of Drs. Louis Silverman and Joel Meyer.

It is a requirement under Texas' Civil Code to submit an expert report when filing a medical malpractice claim.

The defendants objected to the validity of the expert reports and filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that neither doctor was qualified to testify on Ivalyn's brain condition.

On March 27 Judge Gary Sanderson, 60th Judicial District, denied the motion – a move forcing the numerous defendants to file an appeal.

Oral arguments on the matter have been slated for Sept. 24.

On appeal, the defendants argue Judge Sanderson abused his discretion when he concluded the plaintiffs' expert reports were up to spec.

They also argue there is medical evidence showing the chemo line did not cause Ivalyn's stroke and, even if it did, the plaintiffs' experts lack the knowledge and experience to testify on such a complex brain condition.

Conversely, the plaintiffs argue the judge did not abuse his discretion and the defendants are at fault for not halting her treatment.

In their appeals brief, they argue since Ivalyn's treatment, she has become accident prone and has steadily declined mentally and physically.

Specifically, in their suit, the plaintiffs claim Dr. Pangburn failed to consult a specialist in the surgery field, failed to insert the subcutaneous central venous access device in the right portion of the heart, failed to force the device into Ivalyn's aorta and failed to remove and report the suspected defective catheter.

They also claim Pangburn and the Cancer Institute also failed to fully disclose the risks of the surgery.

The doctors' and hospitals' actions "involved an extreme degree of risk, considering the probability and magnitude of the potential harm to Plaintiffs and others," the suit states.

The Andersons are seeking unspecified damages, plus prejudgment interest at the maximum rate, post-judgment interest at the legal rate, costs and other relief the court deems just.

Brett S. Thomas of Beaumont is representing them.

Case No. B182-642
Appeals case No. 09-09-00169

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